Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi


title:  Shatter Me

author:  Tahereh Mafi

pages: 338

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-0062085481

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (but actually), the X-Men movies, and genre-bending urban fantasy.   

My Ratings Explained

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

the basics
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I don't know why, since it sounded great and I'd heard glowing reviews.  I think I just didn't like the original cover (the new ones are fabulous) and I got the idea into my head.  The wrong idea, because Mafi is truly a star.  Her Juliette is a feisty, distrustful girl who wavers between childhood dreams and unshakable cynicism.  Her relationship Adam was a little intense for its brief duration, but there's no denying he's a cutie.  There's a Count of Monte Cristo feel to the beginning, helped along by Juliette's obsession with  numbers, and the plot only becomes twistier and quicker from there.  Most of all, I appreciated the focus on environmental decline as a factor in the rise of the dictatorship.  It's the most likely dystopian scenario given our current climate (har har), and one of the least well-explored.  What shook me was the X-men feel that develops, which I hadn't been prepared for.  While I didn't fall madly in love with this book, I can certainly see why the young adult world hails Mafi--and I will be eagerly devouring the rest of the series.  

plot . 4/5
I'll admit, there were slow points.  Two major ones, in fact.  The first occurred while Juliette was a guest of delightfully psychopathic Warner and didn't seem to be doing much of anything.  The second occurs later, after a twist, and again, Juliette didn't seem to be doing much of anything.  I think the ornate quality of the writing sometimes slowed down action more than was useful.  Apart from those bits, there was an exciting flow and jumpiness to it.  We're in the prison, we're out of the prison, Adam is good, Werner is evil, Adam is evil, Adam is maybe good, Adam is probably evil, Juliette and reader are thrown around like ping pong balls.  It's a vicious game of puzzles to prize out who can be trusted and what the endgame is.  I really enjoyed that aspect.  I do, as I always do, have a bone to pick with the romance.  Sure, Adam and Juliette met as children, but they never spoke.  I'm a little skeptical of their sudden uber-love.  It was cute, but to me, annoying.  Perhaps it will grow on me.  What I enjoyed most were the action scenes where Juliette clearly shows herself to be an ass-kicking hero who can function just fine without a savior.  I wanted even more of her powers, more of her badassery.  

concept . 4/5
The dystopian bit of it isn't terribly unique.  We have the standard lying dictatorship, the standard rich vs. poor, army vs. civilian.  I wasn't terribly thrilled by any specific aspect of how the regime worked.  I did love the emphasis on environmental disaster.  Given the recent cries of "polar vortex" and "super storms" and other disastrous effects of man-propelled climate change, this disaster situation is the nearest (terrifying so) to our future.  I would have liked even more discussion of how the disasters spread fear and laid the groundwork for a hostile takeover.  More about the missing birds.  The thinning air.  The brittle trees.  Those bits were fantastic and eerie.  I also liked the quasi-superhero elements.  These really make Shatter Me stand out from other dystopians.  For some reason they snuck up on me, though, and I'm not sure if I wasn't reading carefully or if there wasn't enough of that atmosphere up front.  Either way, it's something I look forward seeing developed in Unravel Me.  

characters . 5/5
The characters kept me glued to the page.  Juliette is a unique kind of hero.  She has a deadly power but also no will to be deadly.  She's sweet and capable of compassion, but also remarkably hard-hearted and resistant.  She's got a bit of OCD that I found quite endearing.  What didn't work well for me was her behavior towards a late-introduced character.  Her persistent inability to take a joke or give any benefit of the doubt just didn't gel with how I'd experienced her already.  Her relationship with Adam was also overly insta-lovey, though I can almost buy her desperation, given her long isolation.  I'd probably love the first person who loved me too.  Adam himself is almost unbelievably adorable.  Sweet big brother, tender boyfriend, compassionate soldier.  What I disliked most in him was the overprotectiveness that many view as sweet and I see as a red flag for a controlling relationship.  So...  I'll also admit: I love Werner.  He's a hysterical, vulnerable psychopath, like a dystopian Joker with a deeper edge.  I'm excited to see more of him.  I also loved Kenji and wanted to defend him and his silly humor against all the meanies.  All in all, the characters are compelling enough to supplement frayed edges in the plot.  

style . 4/5
I both loved and didn't love Mafi's style.  On the "love" side, it's gorgeously poetic.  She has written some of the most poetic phrases I've ever seen, metaphors and unusual observations and colorful descriptions that are rare in literature, much less young adult.  I would never have thought to make the comparisons and analogies she makes.  It's a testament to her strength as a writer and her vibrant imagination.  I will admit, on the "didn't love" side, the lyricism got too clever sometimes.  Or too overwrought.  There were points when one description would have been enough; three or four overpowered the action and actually distanced me as reader instead of pulling me in.  These instances were more frequent in the end, I think.  Despite that, I still have many dogears to peruse again, because Mafi's use of language is startlingly fresh.    

mechanics . 4/5
Did I mention the covers?  Seriously, I'm not quite sure how some of the imagery fits yet, but they're beyond gorgeous.  I want posters!  Anyhoo, you might guess this, but my main mechanical issue was pacing.  There were time I wanted a fast forward button (only I don't skim or skip, so I just had to suck it up).  Tightening the writing would make the action flow better and the pretty phrasing pop.  Also, what the heck was that ending???  Seriously, we're gonna end it there?  OH and how could I forget the strike-throughs? Such a clever way to express unspoken thoughts, forbidden thoughts; I've never seen it used like that and I loved it.

take home message
Superheroes meet dystopian in this unique, beautifully written take on resistance and revolution.  

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. Interesting review style.
    That cover is also amazing!
    I have been on the fence about starting this series. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    Great review!

    1. Thanks! It keeps me organized and hopefully lets readers know what I weigh when making the final cut.
      I whine about bits of it, but I still really enjoyed the book and am excited for the rest of the series. If you do decide to read, I hope you find good things in it!
      Thanks! (:

  2. Superheroes meet dystopian? SQUEEE! I won this awhile ago, I need to get around to reading it! And lately I have felt myself getting bored and wanting to hit the fast forward button on a lot of books. LoL

    1. I KNOW. It can only get better from here. I'm glad I'm not the only one with a mental fast-forward switch. Sometimes those scenes really need to be cut. Of course, they were mostly romance-y scenes, so my bias shows there.